TCU 21, Wisconsin 19: Badgers can't complete rally

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Associated Press
Sunday, January 2, 2011
— He stood defiantly in the University of Wisconsin football locker room, refusing to take off his jersey. It was as if the simple act of not taking off his pads, perhaps for the final time, might change the painful outcome for junior defensive end J.J. Watt.

Watt vowed the Badgers would make it back to the Rose Bowl — and soon — with or without him. But it was clear from his stoney expression it would take a long time to get over the 21-19 loss in that game to Texas Christian on Saturday.

"This is the type of thing that sticks with you forever," said Watt, who added he didn't know yet if he was going to leave early for the NFL. "You play football to play in this football game. Every kid dreams about playing in this game. It hurts bad when you lose it. I'll be playing plays over and over again in my head for the rest of my life."

So will the more than 50,000 Badgers fans who made the trip and made up the majority the Rose Bowl Stadium crowd of 94,118, as well as so many more watching back in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

"It means something to win the Big Ten, but to come here and lose, it lost all its meaning," Watt said. "We apologize for the fans, we apologize to everyone who supports Wisconsin football, because we didn't do our job today."

It wasn't just a two-point loss in the Rose Bowl, the first time the fourth-ranked Badgers (11-2) lost after three straight wins in this game. It was the number of missed opportunities, including a failed two-point conversion with 2 minutes left, and the many uncharacteristic things that happened for UW.

"There were just a lot of missed opportunities," senior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "That's kind of what the game was, missed opportunities and on edges. It just wasn't clean football."

The most obvious play that stood out was the failed two-point conversion. The Badgers trailed 21-13 after TCU (13-0) scored on the first possession of the second half. UW only had four drives in the second half and the first three ended in third-down failures.

But junior John Clay, who had only five carries through the first 3˝ quarters, came into the game and provided a spark. He had six carries for 59 yards on the final drive, including bursts of 14 and 30 yards on the first two plays.

"John Clay ran his butt right off," senior left tackle Gabe Carimi said. "Give him all the credit. He just crushed through those holes."

Sophomore Montee Ball, who started and had 132 yards on 22 carries, then scored on a 4-yard run around right end to pull the Badgers within two.

Despite the success on the ground in the drive, the Badgers went with a pass on the conversion attempt. Tolzien had tight end Jacob Pedersen wide open in the end zone, but linebacker Tank Carder, lurking near the line of scrimmage, knocked down the pass.

"In hindsight, I'd love to get rid of it sooner, maybe sidestep and throw it," Tolzien said. "It was a good play by their guy. You've got to make plays in big situations. Tonight it was TCU."

That was just one of many missed opportunities for the Badgers.

"Three reasons why we won a lot of games this year: low penalties, no turnovers and assignment-sound," Carimi said. "We weren't assignment-sound the complete time and we had penalties that were uncharacteristic. So two of the three, obviously, equals a loss."

The Badgers had a season-high six penalties for 41 yards. One of the biggest was on TCU's only touchdown drive in the second half. Cornerback Devin Smith was called for his second interference penalty on second-and-13. Smith said receiver Jeremy Kerley slipped on the grass. When Smith reached out an arm to deflect the ball, which was thrown behind them, he said it looked like he made contact.

Still, it was evidence of the Badgers, the least-penalized team in the nation, being a little off all game. Three of the six penalties were for false starts.

"We don't make penalties, especially making them before the snap before you even have a chance to make some yards," Ball said. "That killed us."

The third-ranked Horned Frogs (13-0), the first team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play in the Rose Bowl, proved they belonged in the game.

"It's hard for me to believe we even got an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl, let alone say we're Rose Bowl champs," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.

Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton, the game's MVP, completed 15 of 23 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. He was not sacked and rarely pressured, and gave the UW defense constant problems.

Dalton tossed a 23-yard touchdown to Bart Johnson and scored on a 4-yard run in the highest-scoring first quarter in Rose Bowl history, which ended with TCU leading 14?10.

The Badgers managed to stop the run and held a dominating 226-82 edge in rushing yards. That was supposed to be part of UW's formula for success. The Badgers were 27-2 under coach Bret Bielema when rushing for 200 or more yards, including 7-0 this season.But the offense that had been so good at finishing drives this season squandered too many chances. A drop by Nick Toon on the first drive forced the Badgers to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Philip Welch, who later missed a 39-yard attempt in the second quarter. It was Welch’s first miss from less than 40 yards this season. The Badgers faced a fourth-and-1 at the TCU 21-yard line with 30 seconds left in the first half and all three timeouts remaining, but Bielema elected to let the clock run down and have Welch kick a 37-yard field goal as time expired to trim TCU’s lead to 14-13 at halftime. “Don’t know why it had to happen,” Bielema said of the loss. “Obviously, a very good football team on the other sideline. We’ll take this and we’ll move forward. I don’t think it’ll be anything that sets us back.” That didn’t seem to be the way Watt was taking it. As the media started to file out of the locker room, he finally started to take off his uniform. “I never want to take it off,” he said earlier. “But at some point in your life, you have to take it off. It’s going to come off at some point.”

Last updated: 4:11 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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